Written by Fallon Pierson
Last updated on June 23, 2013 @ 11:47PM
Created on June 23, 2013 @ 6:17PM
Don't let it's beauty fool you. The Tygart River, with its cascading waterfalls and seemingly perfect swimming spots, has claimed many lives- two or three a year, to be exact.
That means Barbour County emergency officials must train for situations like water rescue and recovery.
"I have recovered people from the river and the lakes. It's not a pretty sight," said Thomas Yocum, lieutenant of the Belington Volunteer Fire Department.
The combination that makes the area deadly are people who are not familiar with the area, the unseen swift currents, and the parties. For these reasons, it's important to remember a couple of rules.
"The first thing I recommend is to never swim alone. Always have someone swimming with you. Number two, alcohol and drugs don't mix with water. You make our job harder," added Yocum.
Rescue divers specialize in either swift water rescue on top of the water or underwater situations. To rescue people stuck on a rock, a powerful boat is often used called a Zodiac.
If that doesn't work, they have to set up a rope system. Boogie boards are also useful tools because they easily float on top of the swift parts. They're common items, but it's takes uncommon training to use them properly.
Then there's the gear, like the buoyancy compensator, which can be inflated or deflated so divers can swim at different levels under the water. This, and all the basic diving equipment, costs an upwards of $15,000.
Since most of these divers are volunteer firefighters, a lot of that money comes straight out of their pockets.
"Everybody has a job, you know. They work 40,60, or 80 hours a week. It's hard to find the time to do it," said Captain of the Junior Vol. Fire Dept. Brian Carpenter.
So why do they do it?
"That's something I can't explain. It's just something you've got to do."